Consolidation, Capabilities and Context; the state of play for Digital Signage: Part 1

About to embark on a digital signage project? In this two-part interview, we gathered the thoughts of our Group Head of Marketing, James Keen on the considerations, challenges and changes in the digital signage market. In part one we discuss market trends.

What changes do you anticipate in the next year?
As well as further consolidation in the market, I would expect to see the early signs of use of AI in digital signage: how that manifests itself I’m not sure yet, but nothing earth shattering initially, a dipping of the toe in the water. We’re probably going to see the first genuine 8k digital signage player, with a CMS actually capable of delivering the content. There are a few early attempts already in the market but they’re not financially viable, they are gimmicks really and I’m sure we will see a number of other gimmicks between now and Infocomm 2020 in Las Vegas.

What are the key technology trends? What’s driving them?
The trends we’re seeing with our clients is a push towards improving and enhancing UX, they want simple, they want quick, they want a digital signage platform that doesn’t require retraining. This is something that we’re heavily working on, within our own set of restrictions caused by the fact we are predominantly an IPTV platform. Digital Signage is no longer a toy of the AV manager or a going concern of IT, it is a fully-fledged part of the marketing mix and as such needs to be an easy tool to use every day.

Which products or brands are changing/impacting the market?
Companies offering ‘free’ digital signage to their customers are having an impact on the market, but it’s not so much on companies like Tripleplay as we deploy on too wide a scale to be damaged by small giveaways; it will, however, be harming the profitability of cloud signage providers who already see their margins squeezed. The market has been waiting for a Microsoft or Google to have a serious go at the digital signage space but, frankly, the profits just aren’t there currently for them to really consider it, seriously, as anything more than value add technology. While the signage market is estimated at $30 billion-plus, actually, the percentage of that which accounts for anything but DOOH and LED is quite small. For cloud signage providers you’re probably looking at a very congested market sharing less than $100m revenue globally, so not a lot of margin for error.

Having traditionally been used for communication, we’re now seeing signage take on a data gathering role. What insight can you offer into the trend?
Data gathering with digital signage is a bit of a no go for many of us at the minute, there are cases going through courts across the world relating to the non-permitted harvesting of the public’s image, data and location. While a marketer may love to get their hands on the info and create more context aware content, it’s becoming obvious that there is a lot of legislation to pass and permissions to gather before data gathering through digital signage will sit comfortably with the AV industry.

Which verticals are leading in deployment numbers?
I’d guess the biggest volume of endpoint sales is probably in the retail sector, but that is low margin and very geographically widespread so cost of deployment and support for integrators is quite high; it’s a real bun fight, especially since the high street started stagnating following austerity measures by western governments. From our perspective, corporate headquarters and sports stadia are probably the next biggest from an endpoint scale. Corporate headquarters on average are quite healthy numbers whilst stadiums and arena generally offer nice big hits; larger stadia you’re looking at 500 endpoints, minimum, with some of our clients having deployed more than 2000. From an innovation perspective, sports is very much out in front. They’re using technology in a much more connected way, integrating wherever possible to create a more immersive environment and ensuring technology looks after itself on a game or event day.

Which significant trends are you seeing in content right now?
Context appropriate content is really crucial for digital signage, and that has always been the case. If your content doesn’t make sense to the person or people looking at it then it becomes an irrelevance and a waste. You can create context by using live data, live news, social media and keeping it up to date that way, but then you can also use 3rd party integrations to deliver weather, time or product relevant content; that capability already exists in many platforms. To harness this functionality, you need to work with a great integrator or content partner and select the correct platform that has those integration capabilities natively, otherwise it can become quite a long process to deliver the experience you want.